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Where is Mrs. Brady?

Do you ever have those visual memories that keep playing and replaying in your mind ... over and over again? It can truly drive you crazy ... as this one is for me ... of Mrs. Brady.

Last night, as over 20 million viewers and me watched ABC's Dancing with the Stars, making it yet again the number 1 watched show on TV last night among the 18-49 age group. Even, might I add, with ESPN's much anticipated Monday Night Football.

Much of last night made me cringe with embarrassment. I found my eyes darting from the ceiling to the hardwood floors, from my knitting to my book. Anything, really, to distract myself from my flushed cheeks as I regarded the “stars” mostly unsuccessful attempts to WOW our huge audience. The nightmarish humiliation, even though by myself, was uncomfortable to say the least. And while that is normal DWTS viewing for many of us … it seemed especially tragic last night.

What was truly sad to me was Florence Henderson; otherwise know to all in my generation as the lovely Mrs. Brady.

When the cast was announced in late summer, I actually anticipated her performances. She'd had years and years of old Hollywood training; singing, voice, dance ... and of course, acting. While her seventy-something body would certainly show her age from time to time, I had expected something much different than what we are currently watching. I believed we would see Mrs. Brady sailing elegantly across the ballroom floor and collectively we would sigh and hope that when we were her age, we could be beautiful and elegant too.

I'm disappointed in Mrs. Brady. For it seems as if she has a mandate to destroy America's memory of that ideal wife and mother. It seems imperative to Henderson that she correct that assumption … that disparity between herself and Mrs. Brady. Episode one … we were treated to her foul language that just might compete for shocking. When that fell a little flat and anti-climatic, she tried to portray a more sensitive side with her Sound of Music rendition. That didn't seem to work either. So last night, she tried something new -- sex appeal.

Okay ... while I know that seventy-somethings are probably as active as other age groups in that department, I don't really want to know about it. My mother and grandmother have always drilled it into the little heads that grew up in their home that people who try too hard, appear desperate, and cause people to drift away from them. Last night, desperation is all I saw when I watched Mrs. Brady.

My question then is ... why is it so bad to just be Mrs. Brady? For years now people have criticized the Mrs. Bradys and June Clevers of the world. Women have tried so hard to break a stigma that would seemingly never go away.


Women are a resourceful lot of individuals. We work very, very hard. We organize ourselves into groups to promote, among other things, women's health awareness, women's networking and career organizations, parenting groups, junior leagues, and the list goes on. And in many instances, the results are strong, they're even stellar.

Remember the ERA? The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the Constitution which was intended to guarantee that equal rights could not be denied on account of sex. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline.

When I was really young, the ERA was probably the most challenging cultural issue of that day. I can remember hours of classroom time devoted to the re-education of both boys and girls concerning its mission. Television time, by the hour, dedicated itself to viewing frenzies of street parades and the like.

Successful? Shrug. Perhaps. In many respects, it was just another cause, much like many other causes that have had their 15 minutes of fame on our cultural viewing screen.

Do you have vivid memories of your grandmothers, great grandmothers ... great great grandmothers? What comes to mind? For me ... I think of the most amazing women I've ever known, outside of my own mother, that is. I think of exemplary women who dedicated their lives to others; their comfort, their education, their homelife, and the highly structured organizations we call families and households.

Was it hard work? Of course, what worth having isn't? Much like our organizations, our companies and our volunteer efforts are today. A lot of really hard work. To what end? I think we work hard to not only make a difference, but to gain respect and authority for women. I think women want women to be heard, to be respected, revered.

That's when I pause and remember. Women in my grandmother's day were, for the most part, respected, revered, cherished. Hmmmm. Their word ... was law. Men tipped their hats, opened doors, protected, understood and respected her far reaching authority both domestically and even commercially.

But somewhere along the line, we've given it all up. We work so very hard to distance ourselves from the Mrs. Brady's of the world ... to what avail? We now work just as hard, just as diligently as before ... to accomplish what we've already given up.

Well ... a new generation is growing up behind us as we speak. Our children will be influenced and educated as we, women, see fit. How will we shape their lives? Hopefully, we can bring them to a place where they aren't working themselves into circles. Perhaps they can learn from previous generations and actually build ... and as a result, experience the true joy and fulfillment of being a woman.

More Mrs. Bradys in the making? I hope so.

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